I grew up eating a lot of pakoras, Indian spiced fritters. There are many variations, but traditionally they are vegetables coated in spiced chickpea flour batter and deep-fried. Here, I developed a recipe for delicata squash pakoras that are spicy like traditional pakoras and light and crispy—I use a Japanese tempura-like batter. I am delighted that I experimented with this type of batter. It yields a light, super crispy, and not greasy coating.
These delicata squash pakoras are oh so crunchy and magically spiced. The recipe yields enough for six to eight servings, so they're made for sharing as an appetizer or snack! Serve them as a special treat for Diwali or a fall dinner party.
How to Pick the Best Delicata Squash
My favorite squash is delicata squash; they are smaller in size, easy to prep, and the peel is edible. Smaller delicata squash have thinner rinds and a creamier texture, perfect for deep-frying. Choose ones that feel firm, heavy, and with even coloring—they should have a creamy, yellow appearance. Avoid ones with blemishes or soft spots.
Where To Buy Indian Spices
This recipe calls for cumin seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, Kashmiri chili powder, and kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). It's a combination of spices and flavors often found in pakoras. You can find them in any large supermarket, such as Whole Foods, except for the kasuri methi, which can be sourced from your local Indian grocery store, Spicewalla, or Amazon.
Tips for Getting the Crispiest Pakoras
- The batter uses both vodka and seltzer to create light and crispy fried pakoras. Vodka inhibits gluten development and seltzer lightens the batter. Make sure to use fresh, unopened seltzer; if the carbonation is not strong enough, the coating won't be as crispy. Also, keep the seltzer and vodka as cold as possible, and don't pour them into the dry ingredients until the oil is heated. Otherwise, the seltzer will de-fizz while you wait for the oil to heat up. A small can of seltzer is about 355 milliliters, which is more than enough.
- Use a deep-fry thermometer to make sure that the oil stays at about 350°F the whole time. Adjust the heat up or down as the pakoras fry.
- Serve the pakoras hot—I like to serve them as soon as they come out of the fryer and while I fry the next batch.
Ingredient Swaps That Work
- In testing, I didn't find any significant flaws with using all-purpose flour, but if you have rice flour, try that instead. It’s lighter than all-purpose flour, resulting in even crispier pakoras.
- Don't have vodka? Use only seltzer.
- It’s okay to use club soda instead of seltzer. Avoid using mineral water.
It's Delicata Squash Season!
Delicata Squash Pakoras
Chickpea flour is sometimes labeled as besan flour or gram flour. You can use either!
2 small (1 1/2 pounds) delicata squash
4 cups canola oil or peanut oil
1/2 cup (62g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) chickpea flour (see recipe note)
1 tablespoon (8g) cornstarch
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder or other mild chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons kasuri methi (dried fenugreek)
1/4 cup (50ml) vodka, chilled
2/3 cup (150ml) seltzer or club soda, chilled
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, packed
Mint chutney, tamarind chutney, or spicy aioli
Prep the squash:
Trim the ends of the delicata squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and membrane, which you can discard. Then, cut the squash into 1/8-inch half-moons.
Prepare the oil:
Add oil into a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, and set it over medium heat. Make sure the oil doesn't come past halfway up the sides of the pot. Preheat the oil to 350°F—check the temperature with a deep-frying thermometer.
Line a wire cooling rack or baking sheet with paper towels. Set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients:
Meanwhile, whisk the all-purpose and chickpea flours, cornstarch, cumin seeds, ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt, and methi leaves in a medium bowl.
Add the wet ingredients:
Just before the oil is preheated—ideally when it reaches 325°F—slowly pour in the vodka and seltzer, and whisk to combine until mostly homogeneous. Do not over mix, which can deflate the carbonation. Some small clumps of dry flour are okay. The batter will be slightly thick, which helps it adhere to the squash.
Fry the squash:
Add 8 to 10 half moons of squash into the batter and coat them well. Once preheated, use tongs to carefully drop the battered squash into the oil in a single layer. You may need to increase or decrease the heat to maintain the oil at 350°F while you fry the pakoras.
Fry them until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Use tongs to transfer the squash to the prepared paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the pakoras with flaky salt.
Serve the pakoras:
Garnish pakoras with cilantro and serve them hot with lemon wedges and a dipping sauce, like mint chutney, tamarind chutney, or a spicy aioli. I like to serve them as soon as they’re fried and as I fry the next batch.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 8g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||4%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 7g||24%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 62mg||310%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|